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The beginning of the school year is finally upon us, and that means college students around the country are returning to campus. The calendar turning to fall is a signifier that class is back in session, but it’s also the start of another important time—college football season.

The 2015 season officially kicks off on Sept. 3. The preseason AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll are set, meaning that the early title contenders have been identified. But how do these schools stack up against each other when it comes to academics?

At StartClass, we set out to rank college football’s top 25 teams based on overall academic performance. To accomplish this, we used our Smart Rating system, which is based on academic excellence, admissions selectivity, expert opinions, financial affordability and career readiness of students.

Smart Ratings are calculated using data primarily from the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools place great importance on their football programs, in large part because of the high amount of revenue and national exposure a strong football team can bring to a university. This list shows which colleges have a good balance between academics and athletics, and some that are lacking in classroom performance.

#25. Boise State Broncos

  • Smart Rating: 50
  • AP Poll: 23
  • Coaches Poll: 24

In its first season after the departure of longtime head coach Chris Petersen, Boise State enjoyed a successful 12-2 season that was punctuated by a win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.

It’s a good thing that Broncos fans can take pride in their football team, because Boise State does not grade out well academically. The school’s 8 percent four-year graduation rate puts it in the bottom 20 percent in the nation.

#24. Ole Miss Rebels

  • Smart Rating: 91
  • AP Poll: 17
  • Coaches Poll: 15

After starting the 2014 season 7-0, Ole Miss lost four of its last six games, including a season-ending 42-3 loss to TCU in the Peach Bowl.

Still, the Rebels were ranked No. 17 in the final AP Poll, their highest spot since 2008. The school’s acceptance rate (59.4 percent), endowment ($26,772 per student) and average out-of-pocket cost ($12,640) are all in the top 30 percent nationally. By our Smart Rating system, Ole Miss is the third-highest rated school in the state of Mississippi.

#23. LSU Tigers

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 14
  • Coaches Poll: 13

On the football field, the Tigers’ 2014 record of 8-5 was tied for their worst under head coach Les Miles (the team was also 8-5 in 2008).

Academically, LSU ranks in the top 30 percent nationally in average SAT score (1702), ACT score (25) and median post-graduation salary ($45,000), making it one of the top universities in Louisiana.

#22. Oregon Ducks

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 7
  • Coaches Poll: 5

Last season, the Ducks enjoyed another successful football campaign but came up one game short of winning their first national championship in school history.

Oregon ranks in the top 30 percent nationally in average SAT score (1657) and endowment ($23,744 per student). Of all the teams ranked in the top 10 of the preseason polls, Oregon has the lowest academic ranking.

#21. Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 15
  • Coaches Poll: 16

The Sun Devils were ranked No. 12 in the final AP Poll last season, their highest final ranking since 1996. In three years under current head coach Todd Graham, ASU is 28-12 overall and 19-8 in Pac-12 games, representing one of the most successful stretches in program history.

ASU is also trending in the right direction academically. In 2010, the school’s acceptance rate was 92.3 percent. Now, that number has dropped to 80.2 percent, signifying a rise in admissions criteria. ASU’s average SAT score (1717), ACT score (25) and median post-graduation salary ($45,000) are all in the top 30 percent nationally.

#20. Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 18
  • Coaches Poll: 20

In its second season under head coach Bret Bielema, Arkansas made great strides and has some momentum heading into the 2015 season.

Academically, Arkansas is widely considered the top public school in the state. It’s tied for second statewide in average ACT score (25), and its 58.6 percent acceptance rate is in the top 30 percent nationally.

#19. Arizona Wildcats

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 22
  • Coaches Poll: 22

The 2014 season was Arizona’s most successful campaign under head coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats went 10-4, won the Pac-12 South and finished ranked in the top 20 in both major polls.

Our Smart Rating has Arizona ranked as the top college in the state. It has a lower acceptance rate than ASU (76.9 percent vs. 80.2 percent) and a higher median post-graduation salary ($47,200 vs. $45,000). To top it all off, the Wildcats beat the Sun Devils in last season’s battle for the Territorial Cup with a 42-35 win in Tucson.

#18. Oklahoma Sooners

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 19
  • Coaches Poll: 19

The Sooners disappointed on the gridiron last season, finishing with an 8-5 record after being ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP Poll.

Oklahoma fared better in the classroom. Both the average SAT score (1732) and ACT score (26) are in the top 20 percent nationally, and its median post-graduation salary of $46,200 is in the top 30 percent.

#17. Missouri Tigers

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 24
  • Coaches Poll: 23

In the last two seasons, the Tigers are 23-5 overall and 14-2 in SEC play, with two SEC Championship Game appearances. They finished ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll both seasons.

With 34,616 students, Missouri is the largest school in the state. Its 45 percent four-year graduation rate is in the top 30 percent nationally and is renowned for its journalism program.

#16. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 3
  • Coaches Poll: 3

Despite losing to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, the Crimson Tide finished the 2014 season ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for the seventh consecutive season.

Alabama’s average ACT score (26) is in the top 20 percent nationally, and its 56.5 percent acceptance rate is in the top 30 percent. Despite those strong stats, it just missed beating out a fierce in-state rival on this list…

#15. Auburn Tigers

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 6
  • Coaches Poll: 7

Auburn may not have won the Iron Bowl last season, but it boasts a higher academic standing than its in-state foe.

Auburn has a higher average SAT score than Alabama (1730 vs. 1665), a higher ACT score (27 vs. 26) and a higher median post-graduation salary ($44,600 vs. $41,600). All of that is enough for Auburn fans to hang their hat on, but if they’re being honest, they’d probably rather see the Tigers come out on top on the field this season than in the classroom.

#14. Tennessee Volunteers

  • Smart Rating: 92
  • AP Poll: 25
  • Coaches Poll: 25

Though the Volunteers went just 7-6 last year in head coach Butch Jones’ second season, the program has high hopes for a breakthrough year in 2015. The team hasn’t finished the season ranked in the top 25 since 2007.

Academically, Tennessee is widely considered the best public school in the state. Its average SAT score (1747) and ACT score (26) are both in the top 20 percent, and it has a median post-graduation salary of $42,500.

#13. Michigan State Spartans

  • Smart Rating: 93
  • AP Poll: 5
  • Coaches Poll: 6

The Spartans finished the 2014 season ranked No. 5 in both major polls, their second consecutive top-five finish and fourth top-15 finish in the past five years.

With just under 50,000 students, Michigan State is the largest school in the state. It is widely considered one of the top public schools in Michigan, and its endowment of $40,706 per student is in the top 20 percent nationwide.

#12. TCU Horned Frogs

  • Smart Rating: 93
  • AP Poll: 2
  • Coaches Poll: 2

After posting a combined 11-14 record in their first two years in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs broke out in a big way in 2014. They finished the season with a dominant 42-3 win over Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl and were ranked No. 3 in the final AP Poll and Coaches Poll.

TCU is one of the largest private schools in the state of Texas. It ranks in the top 20 percent nationally in acceptance rate (47.4 percent), four-year graduation rate (55 percent), average SAT score (1770) and average ACT score (27).

TCU fell one game short of making it to the College Football Playoff last season, suffering a heartbreaking loss to an in-state rival. Which brings us to the next school on the list…

#11. Baylor Bears

  • Smart Rating: 93
  • AP Poll: 4
  • Coaches Poll: 4

The academic competition between Baylor and TCU mirrors the competition on the football field—almost too close to call.

Baylor’s 61-58 win over TCU last season was one of the most exciting games of the 2014 season. The Bears finished the year ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll, their highest final ranking in program history.

The gap between Baylor and TCU academically is also a small one. Baylor has a slightly higher average SAT score (1810 vs. 1770), has more major choices (133 vs. 112) and offers 17 percent more financial aid support. TCU owns the advantage in median post-graduation salary, average ACT score and six-year graduation rate.

#10. Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Smart Rating: 93
  • AP Poll: 1
  • Coaches Poll: 1

The defending national champions had a dream season in 2014, and Ohio State’s standing as a leading academic institution is also thriving.

With 57,466 total students, Ohio State is the third-largest university in the country. Its average SAT score (1870) and average ACT score (29) both rank in the top 10 percent nationally, and its 51 percent four-year graduation rate ranks in the top 30 percent.

#9. Florida State Seminoles

  • Smart Rating: 96
  • AP Poll: 10
  • Coaches Poll: 8

The Seminoles failed to repeat as national champions in 2014, but they still had a successful season, finishing No. 5 in the AP Poll.

Florida State is one of the best colleges in Florida. Its $6,507 in-state tuition makes it an attractive option for Florida residents, and its average SAT score (1795) and ACT score (27) are in the top 20 percent nationally.

#8. Clemson Tigers

  • Smart Rating: 97
  • AP Poll: 12
  • Coaches Poll: 12

Clemson has lost to ACC rival Florida State in four of the past five seasons, but the Tigers are enjoying one of the most successful stretches in program history. They’re 61-26 in the last seven years under Dabo Swinney, and they’ve had four consecutive 10-win seasons.

Though Clemson hasn’t been able to gain the advantage on Florida State on the gridiron, it has a slight edge in the classroom.

#7. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Smart Rating: 97
  • AP Poll: 20
  • Coaches Poll: 18

The Badgers won the Big Ten West division in 2014 and finished the season ranked No. 13 in both polls, a successful season by any measure.

Wisconsin is the highest ranked Big Ten school on this list. It has the highest average SAT and ACT scores in the state, and has a median post-graduation salary of $46,000.

#6. Georgia Bulldogs

  • Smart Rating: 97
  • AP Poll: 9
  • Coaches Poll: 9

The Bulldogs went 10-3 in Mark Richt’s 14th season as head coach, coming in at No. 9 in both major polls.

With 34,536 total students, Georgia is the biggest school in the state. Its four-year graduation rate of 54 percent is in the top 20 percent of all schools, and its average SAT score (1855) and ACT score (28) are both in the top 10 percent. Georgia is not, however, the top-ranked school from the Peach State on this list.

#5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  • Smart Rating: 97
  • AP Poll: 16
  • Coaches Poll: 17

After a successful 2014 campaign, Georgia Tech can call itself the best in the state on the field and in the classroom. The Yellow Jackets beat the Bulldogs in a thrilling 30-24 overtime win last season in Athens, and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the Coaches Poll.

Georgia Tech has the highest average SAT score (2145) and ACT score (31) in the state. The school is among the top 10 percent nationally in the following categories: acceptance rate (33 percent), total research expenditure ($698M) and median post-graduation salary ($60,000).

#4. UCLA Bruins

  • Smart Rating: 98
  • AP Poll: 13
  • Coaches Poll: 14

The Bruins were ranked No. 10 in the final polls, their highest end-of-the-year ranking since 1998. The team has gone 29-11 in three years under current head coach Jim Mora, which represents one of the most successful stretches in program history.

Academically, UCLA is one of the most prestigious public schools in the country. It ranks in the top 10 percent nationally in acceptance rate (22 percent), average SAT score (1950) and average ACT score (28). Its median post-graduation salary of $50,000 is in the top 20 percent in the country.

#3. USC Trojans

  • Smart Rating: 98
  • AP Poll: 8
  • Coaches Poll: 10

The Trojans went 9-4 in their first season under head coach Steve Sarkisian, finishing the season ranked No. 20 in the final AP Poll.

With 41,368 total students, USC is the largest school in California. It ranks in the top 10 percent nationally in all of the following categories: acceptance rate (19.8 percent), four-year graduation rate (73 percent), average SAT score (2075), average ACT score (31), endowment ($93,511 per student) and median post-graduation salary ($51,500).

#2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Smart Rating: 99
  • AP Poll: 11
  • Coaches Poll: 11

The Fighting Irish were 6-0 and ranked No. 5 in Week 8 of last season, then lost five of their lasts seven games to finish with a disappointing 8-5 record.

Academically, Notre Dame remains one of the top private schools in the country. Its four-year graduation rate of 90 percent is in the top 10 percent nationally and is the fourth-highest among schools with a Smart Rating of 90 or higher.

Notre Dame’s average SAT score (2145), ACT score (33) and median post-graduation salary ($53,500) are all in the top 10 percent nationally.

#1. Stanford Cardinal

  • Smart Rating: 99
  • AP Poll: 21
  • Coaches Poll: 21

For an athletic program that takes pride in its “Nerd Nation” moniker, it should come as no surprise that Stanford sits atop this list. The Cardinal’s 8-5 record in 2014 was the worst since 2009, a testament to how far the program has come from a perennial doormat to West Coast powerhouse.

When it comes to academics, there is little that needs to be said on behalf of Stanford. Its acceptance rate (5.1 percent) is the second-lowest in the nation, trailing only the Curtis Institute of Music, a specialty college in Philadelphia with fewer than 200 students. Stanford ranks in the top 10 percent nationally in average SAT score (2210), ACT score (32) and median post-graduation salary ($60,000). The football program’s success in recent years—a 54-13 record since 2010 and a 2013 Rose Bowl win—proves that even the most prestigious academic universities can compete with the nation’s traditional football powers.